Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Riga says it can handle expense of being EU Capital of Culture

  • Riga will be EU capital of culture in 2014 (Photo: Dan Silver)

Despite slashed budgets and economic woes, Latvia's capital, Riga, is confident of being able to raise the necessary funding for a series of cultural events in 2014, when it is due to become the European capital of culture, its mayor told this website.

"We are obviously affected by the economic crisis, our budget was slashed by 30 percent on the expenditure side and of course the cultural sector is under-financed. But we would like to use this event to gather money for the cultural infrastructure, which will attract more tourists and have a positive impact on our economy," Nils Usakovs, the mayor of Riga told EUobserver on the fringes of a conference marking the 25 anniversary of the so-called European capital of culture scheme.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The one-year label is awarded annually to one or several cities who plan a series of cultural events which highlight local traditions, tolerance, and encourage "a sense of belonging to the same European family."

The European Commission contributes €1.5 million to each capital of culture, but the bulk of the expenditure – roughly 80 percent – is taken up by the respective townhall and national government.

Riga was selected last year, together with the Swedish city of Umea, to be both capitals of culture in 2014.

Another Baltic capital – Vilnius of neighbouring Lithuania – carried this label last year. But the fallout of the economic crisis saw many projects downsized or slashed altogether.

"Vilnius was a catastrophe – they were not able to raise the money for the projects," said Robert Scott, head of the selection panel, while raising the question of more EU involvement and assistance when cash-strapped municipalities are not able to deliver on the promises made years before.

Political divergencies between the government and the local administration in Vilnius also added to the mix, as well as the bankruptcy of the main airliner, which isolated the city from its potential visitors.

Mr Usakovs rejected the idea that his city would follow a similar pattern. The biggest among the three Baltic capitals, Riga should be able to attract more sponsors and companies in funding this event, he said.

The Latvian politician also pledged to stay out of any decisions on the content of the exhibitions, concerts and art fairs.

"Us politicians shouldn't mess up the cultural programme, so we have selected innovative people, real artists, and we rely on them. Our job is to deal with the private sector, sponsorships, working with the airport, the airlines, finding money in advertising the city," he said.

The EU commission also encourages local and national politicians to stay out of taking decisions on the content of the projects – one of the issues which seems to have been the case in Lithuania last year.

As for the national audit carried out in Vilnius after allegation of misused funds, the EU executive is not aware of any problems regarding the community money.

"It was just bad timing, due to the economic crisis Vilnius wasn't able to profit as much from this scheme as other cities did in the past," Dennis Abbott, a spokesman for the EU culture commissioner told this website.

A study carried out by the commission for the 1995-2004 period showed that the tourism industry benefits the most from the scheme, with an average increase of 12 percent in overnights stays per city when compared to the previous year. The year following the event, the number of overnights stays is higher than the level before the event as well.

This year's capitals of culture are Istanbul (Turkey), Essen for the Ruhr (Germany) and Pecs (Hungary).

Focus

EU countries ponder massive increase in arts spending

The European Commission's plan to launch the world's largest ever cultural funding programme is to be tested in coming weeks as EU states ponder if they want arts spending to go up 37 percent.

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

Magazine

A tourist's guide to EU-funded Amsterdam

When it comes to projects paid for by EU regional funds, most people think of roads in Romania or bridges in Bulgaria. But richer regions also receive money. EUobserver takes you on a tour of selected projects in Amsterdam.

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us